Preserving culture and heritage

IF you’ve walked down Jalan Raja Chulan, you’ll notice Old Malaya. It’s a place to be admired as it was converted from a crumbling row of shop houses into a contemporary dining experience.

Shaheera Shahab works as part of a team that manages Old Malaya and at the same time, works under their venture partners, the Pampas Group to gain more experience in the F&B industry.

Born and raised in Kuala Lumpur with a BA in Business Management, she also works with her father as a business development executive at Shahab Ira (1973) Sdn Bhd and serves as a director of Sitrac Corporation Sdn Bhd, which is also another venture of her father’s.

How has preserving culture and heritage impacted your life? 
Conservation has always played a big part in my life growing up. Most of my early childhood, my father spent re-foresting a 50-acre rubber plantation. His business partner and him have always been conservative in dealing with the environment, dedicated to conserving the 7,000-acre land they oversee in Janda Baik.

Culture and heritage preservation just came as second nature to us. Having the opportunity to be a part of Old Malaya and its restoration means a great deal to me as I am sure it has to a lot of people. We need more buildings like this saved in the city, paving way for a more cultural and heritage conscious society. There’s no reason for us to not be proud of it, whatsoever. 

What traditions do you practise at your workplace? 
The value of family and belonging is important to us. That has always been the way we run our business and the people within it, and it is the same with our partners too. That is a tradition we would love to see strengthen and prevail. 

What has been the most memorable event at Old Malaya?
I’m sure everyone at Old Malaya will have a different opinion on this, but for me the most memorable one thus far is our New Year’s Eve celebration. It was a night that customers, new and old, friends, family, partners all came together to ring in the new year.

I have always known this is a special place but at that moment, when I saw the people embracing each other and celebrating together, I knew that this is a place where memories and stories are made and shared.

This building has seen a lot through its days – first built as a home to Colonial and then later, to Malay Military Officials and their families. Then, home to the Eurasian community for decades, Old Malaya has been a destination where people came together to make history.

And it is with great pride, to know that this will continue through us.  

What are some challenges in your position?
As of now, my biggest challenge is to solidify my position in the F&B world – a fast-paced world where new ideas develop each day, where my peers are quickly developing too. I must be ahead, but to be ahead, I must learn how it moves first and foremost, if that makes sense. 

Who is your idol and why?
There are many that I admire, and respect but I wouldn’t say I have a specific idol. I remember reading in Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, a quote that resonates with me.

She wrote “If you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue, and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher and if you are prepared most of all to face and forgive some of the most difficult realities about yourself, then the truth will not be withheld from you.”

Though the context of this prose was more of self-discovery, I believe that she’s right in saying that everyone we meet are our teachers. The truth is we learn and should learn from each other. 

What are your future plans?
I’m in hospitality at the moment and I love it, but I also love the world of technology. So in the long run, I see myself merging these two loves of mine.

In the near future, I am in the midst of planning an Old Malaya Music & Art Gala primarily focused on the arts and jazz music with a very passionate events management team, and that will be sometime in August.

Under Shahab Ira (1973), we are developing a boutique eco-resort in Kebun Rimba, Janda Baik.